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Air Conditioning Maintenance

An air conditioner's filters, coils, and fins require regular maintenance for the unit to function effectively and efficiently
throughout its years of service. Neglecting necessary maintenance ensures a steady decline in air conditioning
performance while energy use steadily increases. Check out our Energy Saver 101 Infographic: Home Cooling for more
ways to help improve your comfort and the efficiency of your air conditioner.

  • AIR CONDITIONER FILTERS
The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean
its filters. Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce a system's efficiency significantly. With normal airflow
obstructed, air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil's heat-absorbing
capacity. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5% to
15%.

For central air conditioners, filters are generally located somewhere along the return duct's length. Common filter
locations are in walls, ceilings, furnaces, or in the air conditioner itself. Room air conditioners have a filter mounted in
the grill that faces into the room.

Some types of filters are reusable; others must be replaced. They are available in a variety of types and efficiencies.
Clean or replace your air conditioning system's filter or filters every month or two during the cooling season. Filters may
need more frequent attention if the air conditioner is in constant use, is subjected to dusty conditions, or you have fur-
bearing pets in the house.

  • AIR CONDITIONER COILS
The air conditioner's evaporator coil and condenser coil collect dirt over their months and years of service. A clean filter
prevents the evaporator coil from soiling quickly. In time, however, the evaporator coil will still collect dirt. This dirt
reduces airflow and insulates the coil, reducing its ability to absorb heat. To avoid this problem, check your evaporator
coil every year and clean it as necessary.

Outdoor condenser coils can also become very dirty if the outdoor environment is dusty or if there is foliage nearby. You
can easily see the condenser coil and notice if dirt is collecting on its fins.

You should minimize dirt and debris near the condenser unit. Your dryer vents, falling leaves, and lawn mower are all
potential sources of dirt and debris. Cleaning the area around the coil, removing any debris, and trimming foliage back
at least 2 feet (0.6 meters) allow for adequate airflow around the condenser.

  • COIL FINS
The aluminum fins on evaporator and condenser coils are easily bent and can block airflow through the coil. Air
conditioning wholesalers sell a tool called a "fin comb" that will comb these fins back into nearly original condition.

  • CONDENSATE DRAINS
Occasionally pass a stiff wire through the unit's drain channels. Clogged drain channels prevent a unit from reducing
humidity, and the resulting excess moisture may discolor walls or carpet.

  • HIRING A PROFESSIONAL
When your air conditioner needs more than regular maintenance, hire a professional service technician. A well-trained
technician will find and fix problems in your air conditioning system.

The technician should:

  1. Check for correct amount of refrigerant
  2. Test for refrigerant leaks using a leak detector
  3. Capture any refrigerant that must be evacuated from the system, instead of illegally releasing it to the atmosphere
  4. Check for and seal duct leakage in central systems
  5. Measure airflow through the evaporator coil
  6. Verify the correct electric control sequence and make sure that the heating system and cooling system cannot
    operate simultaneously
  7. Inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections, and apply a non-conductive coating if necessary
  8. Oil motors and check belts for tightness and wear
  9. Check the accuracy of the thermostat.
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